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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, October 18, 2008

Suit targets Obama document

 •  Issue of race growing at edges of presidential politics

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser Staff Writer

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To learn more about the state's law on who's eligible to obtain vital records go to www.hawaii.gov/health and click on the "vital records" link.

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An author and avowed opponent of Barack Obama has filed suit against the state seeking to require officials to provide a copy of the Democratic presidential nominee's Hawai'i birth certificate.

Under state law, such copies may only be released to those who have a "tangible relationship" to the person whose record is being sought, said Janice Okubo, state Department of Health spokeswoman.

On average, health officials receive two requests for a copy of Obama's birth certificate every three weeks or so, Okubo said.

"The law was enacted primarily to protect your private information, especially in these days where there's ID theft," Okubo said.

The lawsuit was filed yesterday in state Circuit Court by Internet columnist and author Andy Martin.

Martin has written a book called "Senator Obama," and disclosed in a telephone conversation yesterday about his lawsuit that he opposes Obama's election and is the executive director of The Stop Obama Coalition.

The New York Times reported this week that Martin "is widely credited with starting the cyberwhisper campaign that still dogs Mr. Obama."

The New York Times report, dated Oct. 12 on its Web site, described Martin as a "prodigious filer of lawsuits" and said that in a series of interviews he "did not dispute his influence in Obama rumors."

The Times report goes on to say that an examination of legal documents and election filings, along with interviews with Martin's acquaintances, revealed that he is "a man with a history of scintillating if not always factual claims." He has left a trail of animosity some of it provoked by anti-Jewish comments among political leaders, lawyers and judges in three states over more than 30 years, the Times report said.

The lawsuit filed in Honolulu seeks to have the court order the state to turn over a copy of Obama's birth certificate, and related files and records.

The lawsuit names Gov. Linda Lingle and Dr. Chiyome Fukino, health department director.

Attorney General Mark Bennett said he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on it.

"But pursuant to the Hawai'i Revised Statutes, vital records are confidential and it would violate the law to release them to anyone except the individuals listed in the section," Bennett said.

The suit claims that because Obama is a presidential candidate, releasing his birth certificate is a "topic of intense national speculation."

Obama in March posted a copy of his birth certificate on his Web site, www.fightthesmears.com/articles/5/birthcertificate, to prove that he was born Aug. 4, 1961, in Honolulu.

Text accompanying the birth certificate on Obama's Web page begins, "The truth about Barack's birth certificate."

"Smears claiming Barack Obama doesn't have a birth certificate aren't actually about that piece of paper they're about manipulating people into thinking Barack is not an American citizen.

"The truth is, Barack Obama was born in the state of Hawai'i in 1961, a native citizen of the United States of America.

"Next time someone talks about Barack's birth certificate, make sure they see this page."

The lawsuit, however, states that because Martin "strives for factual accuracy and attempts to conduct thorough research," he should have a copy of Obama's birth certificate from the state and not a certificate "posted on a Web site."

Martin, whose headquarters is in New York City but is presently in Honolulu, asked the court to consider scheduling an emergency hearing next week so he can participate in person.

"I want to see a certified copy issued by the state of Hawai'i, not one issued by the state of Obama," Martin said in a prepared statement. "What is Obama hiding?"

The state's seal is embossed on the back side of all birth certificates.

The law that restricts the release of vital records dates to 1949, Okubo said. Many other states have similar laws on vital records, she said.

Hawai'i law states that only the person whom the record is concerned with, or a spouse, parents, descendant or someone with a common ancestor, can obtain a copy of a vital record. In addition, someone acting on behalf of the person a personal representative or adoptive parents can obtain a vital record. A copy could also be obtained via court order.

However, Okubo said, "If someone from Obama's campaign gave us permission in person and presented some kind of verification that he or she was Obama's designee, we could release the vital record."

Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com.